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ADP Champ or Chump Spotlight: Gleyber Torres

When people think of Gleyber Torres, the first thing that springs to mind is the fact that he completely obliterated the Baltimore Orioles in 2019 to the tune of .394/.467/1.045 with 13 HR. His supporters claim that the Orioles are still terrible, so Torres will be able to fatten up his stat line again. His detractors argue that performing that well against a single team is a fluke and shouldn't be expected regardless of how terrible the Orioles may be. In truth, we should be analyzing Torres's performance, not the Orioles, in predicting his 2020 fantasy value.

Torres has about as much prospect pedigree as an owner could hope for, ranking as baseball's second-ranked prospect per MLB Pipeline before 2018. He lost out to Shohei Ohtani, a player who already had a successful professional career in Japan at that point. The 23-year-old also has two strong big league seasons under his belt, first slashing .271/.340/.480 with 24 HR in 484 PAs in 2018 and then hitting .278/.337/.535 with 38 big flies in 2019.

Fantasy owners are expecting big things if his 29.4 ADP is any indication. Torres is definitely a good player, but can he live up to being a top-30 fantasy asset?

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Gleyber Days on the Farm

It's tempting to look at any 23-year-old's MiLB performance to try and substantiate his big league numbers, but it doesn't work in the case of Torres. The Yankees promoted him aggressively after acquiring him from the Cubs, giving him 139 PAs at Double-A (Trenton) and 152 PAs split between two seasons at Triple-A (Scranton/Wilkes-Barre). That's not much of a sample size to work with.

Furthermore, his MiLB stat lines bear little resemblance to the player he's been in the Bronx. Torres hit .273/.367/.496 with five homers and five steals in 139 PAs at Double-A (Trenton), walking nearly as often as he struck out in the process. He hit .309/.406/.457 with two homers and two steals in 96 PAs at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre that season, but a sliding injury cut his season short. He briefly returned to Triple-A in 2018, hitting .347/.393/.510 with a homer and a steal in 56 PAs, but was soon summoned to the Show. There's little evidence for the power hitter Torres has become in these numbers.


Digging Deeper into Torres' Pop

With little MiLB data to work with, we'll have to use Statcast to try to estimate Torres's true talent. Torres posted an impressive 17.9% HR/FB in 2018 and improved it to 21.5% last season, but his Statcast power indicators weren't as strong in either campaign. His 91.2 mph average airborne exit velocity in 2018 was a smidgeon below-average that season, while an increase to 92.8 mph last season was only barely above. His overall exit velocity totals of 88.7 mph (2018) and 89 mph (2019) tell a similar story.

Likewise, both his 9.2% rate of Brls/BBE in 2018 and his 10.1% mark a season ago were more good than great. If you prefer Brls per plate appearance instead of batted ball event, Torres's 6% rate in 2018 was only average while his 7.1% rate in 2019 was above-average but not elite. Here are all of the players who finished with the same Brls/PA mark in 2019:

Muncy's a nice guy to see, but the rest of them are a little worrying to see for a guy taken inside the top-30.

Of course, this doesn't mean that Torres will suddenly turn pumpkin and give his owners nothing. Torres plays in a very hitter-friendly park, hits a lot of fly balls (41.9 FB% last season), and pulled a whopping 27.7% of his flies last season. The combination makes him what this author likes to call a compiler: a guy who only has league-average oomph but hits 25-30 HR anyway due to his sheer volume of fly balls.

Torres was also buried in a deep Yankees lineup last season, finishing with only 96 runs and 90 RBI despite nearly hitting 40 bombs. Roster Resource currently projects Torres to hit third in 2020, a slot that would likely allow him to pace for more R+RBI even if his HR totals decline. In short, Torres is likely to continue to produce homers for fantasy owners moving forward, but is unlikely to approach a 40 HR pace again.


Does Torres Bring Anything Else to the Table?

Much analysis about Torres talks about batting average or stolen base upside to go with his homer totals, but this author doesn't really see either. Some analysts see upside in Torres's .296 BABIP last year considering his .321 mark in 2018, but the latter mark was predicated on a 24.5 LD% that likely won't repeat. For reference, it was a league-average 20.9% last year. All of the fly balls that are good for his power numbers are bad for his average, and his 8.5 IFFB% suggests that he may have a little bit of a pop-up problem to sort out if he wants to be a batting average asset.

Similarly, Torres's 21.4 K% looks solid until you consider the 13.2 SwStr% and 35.1% chase rate that accompanied it last year. He struck out 25.2% of the time in 2018 with similar underlying metrics (34.4% chase, 14 SwStr%), and a rate between his 2018 and 2019 figures is likely the best projection for 2020. Notably, Baseball Savant's xBA suggests that Torres deserved to hit .262 last season and .257 the season before, so there is at least as much batting average downside as upside in his profile.

Quite frankly, this author has no idea why some owners see SB potential in Torres. He was never a huge base thief on the farm, and his Statcast Sprint Speed declined from 27.1 ft./sec in 2018 to just 26.5 ft./sec last season. That's below the MLB average! Considering his move to the heart of the Yankees order rather than the periphery of it, it wouldn't be surprising if manager Aaron Boone gave him a red light when the likes of Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton are up, either.



Torres looks like a good bet to reach 25-30 HR with a batting average that won't hurt you in 2020, and his prime slot in one of MLB's best lineups should help him punch above his weight in R+RBI. That's a valuable fantasy asset, but he may not justify his current draft day cost without repeating last year's homer totals or adding average and/or steals to his line. Considering where he is going in drafts, you might be better off taking Pete Alonso (26.2 ADP) if you want a 40-HR pace or Jose Altuve (31.8) if you want a middle infielder who contributes across the board.

Verdict: Chump (based on high draft day cost and subpar Statcast metrics)

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